The evolution of Iowa Valley Continuing Education
For years, Iowa Valley Continuing Education (IVCE) was the place to go for personal enrichment classes such as dance and yoga. At one point in history we were the only game in town! Now, you don’t even need to leave your home for these conveniences. In fact, you can live-stream this type of class for little to no cost. How about a cooking class? All you have to do is watch YouTube for that experience. And yes, it’s FREE!
Technology is heavily responsible for the shifting in focus for most continuing education departments. The increasingly competitive markets have led to lower enrollments in courses and financial instability. The newer models have continuing education departments running like a business. We’ve had to be more strategic about our course offerings and services across the District. We simply don’t have the resources to continue past business practices.
Through all these challenges, IVCE’s commitment to our mission remains strong. We will continue to respond to diverse community needs and build partnerships. We will always strive to provide quality learning experiences and ensure student success. We just have to work smarter to keep all efforts moving forward.
The real evolution has come from planning. IVCE must take a more strategic approach to accomplish the mission. What does that mean? Iowa Valley now develops a yearly business plan that aligns with the District’s mission and the strategic plan. During this past year, our plan focused on serving the outlying communities. For six months, staff visited with community members in Tama and Hardin counties, collecting information about challenges, partnerships, and programming. The whole experience laid the groundwork for reconnecting and rebuilding in areas that were underserved. It was important to take the time to listen to our customers and focus on programs/services about which they are passionate.
From that research, we incorporated several new initiatives into the IVCE business plan. A few of the initiatives are:
• Partner with 3-4 businesses to expand internship and job shadowing opportunities in the area.
• Develop a retail business course series to include conversational Spanish, customer service training, and diversity and cultural awareness.
• Develop an outdoor summer series: wilderness first aid, campfire cooking, kayaking, biking.
• Partner with Iowa State Extension, Tama County Conservation, and South Tama schools to provide Kids Camp at Otter Creek/summer children’s series.
For years prior we did planning, often in silos and sporadic, only accomplishing 50 percent of our team goals. Last year we followed a business plan and proudly accomplished 83.3 percent of our goals. Through extensive planning, IVCE’s programs and services in all areas of the District will change for the positive. This will restore our customers’ faith in our ability to accomplish the mission.
We extend a special thanks to all community members who participated and to those who continue to give us feedback. We are rebuilding one step at a time!
Jacque Goodman is vice chancellor of Iowa Valley Continuing Education.